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In Texas Schools, Parents Cited for Students’ Misbehavior

The state of Texas has used the tactic of citing students for behavior violations and truancy as part of a zero-tolerance movement since the mid-1990’s. But parents, too, can get caught up in the criminal justice system for their children’s alleged offenses.

When Houston, Texas student Jordan Baylor skipped more than 10 days of school last year, his father, Norris Baylor, received a Class-C Misdemeanor ticket.

Jordan Baylor, a student at Madison High School in Houston, Texas received a Class-C misdemeanor citation for truancy last year. Photo by Mike Fritz/PBS NewsHour

Jordan, 17, and a ninth grader at Madison High School, has documented disability issues and learning difficulties. Jordan’s Father, Norris, is disabled and on a fixed income. Mr. Baylor said he knew nothing about his son’s absences until they had both received tickets. But he couldn’t afford to pay the fines. At one point, father and son were both looking at potential jail time, all stemming from the Jordan’s truancy.

In December 2011, social justice organization Texas Appleseed released their “Texas’ School-to-prison Pipeline” report, which found that special needs students and minorities, and particularly African Americans, are disproportionally ticketed. And it can be difficult to find legal representation for these types of cases.

Sarah Guidry is the Interim Executive Director of the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy in Houston, one of the few resources in the state that helps students and their parents navigate the justice system after being issued a school-related ticket.

Since Jordan’s interaction with the law over his truancy, Jason Spencer, general manager of the Houston Independent School District’s Media Relations department, said ticketing “should be a last resort” and is “not the most effective way to keep kids in school and on track to graduating.”

Spencer also said his statistics show that the district has dramatically reduced the number of truancy citations over the past two years.

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